Just Get Yourself Moving to Lower Stress and Improve Mood: Your Biology Will Do the Rest
“Good Things Come to Those Who Sweat” ~Author Unknown
Exercise and physical activity are well-known for their numerous benefits to the body. For instance, many lifestyle changes to improve bodily health usually begins with integrating exercise into a person’s routine. It is effective for all age groups and every gender and research has shown that regular exercise has significantly reduced the death rate of men and women up to 30%.
But outside of these physical benefits, there’s also a great deal of evidence that shows a link between exercise, improved mood, and stress relief. If you’re looking for a reason to get moving and fit, this article will show you the connection between exercise and enjoying a significant reduction of stress.
How does exercise lower stress levels?
Let’s look at the direct effects of exercise on our brain.
- Endorphin booster
Exercise creates a boost in endorphins, which is the body’s number one feel-good hormone. Endorphins stimulate the brain’s opiate receptors, similar to opiate and opioid drugs. The effect of this is that you can feel less stressed, in pain, fatigue and sometimes producing a sense of bliss. It prompts your body to feel a pleasurable “high,” which can lessen stress and anxiety and improve your mood.
- Endocannabinoid booster
Not only does vigorous physical activity boost endorphins, but there is also a release of endogenous cannabinoids. Probably one of the most well-known cannabinoids is delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. We have a natural form of THC in our bodies that is released by our brain cells. We know that one of ways to cause the release of this chemical is through exercise.
3. Enhances serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine
Research also points to exercise increasing the concentration of brain chemical in the parts of the brain that are connected to mood and anxiety. Studies show that exercise has just as much of an effect, if not more, on mood and anxiety level than any medication you can take, through releasing major mood neurotransmitters, serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.
4. Teaches the body to deal with stressWhen you exercise, your body’s physiological systems communicates with each other more closely than usual; and these systems are all directly involved in your body’s stress response. Exercise forces the systems involved to work together to reduce stress.
For example, cardiovascular system reaches out to the renal system which in turn contributes to muscle contraction. So, exercising benefits the body by causing its systems to work together and respond to stress and anxiety in a more efficient way. Conversely, sedentary lifestyles make the body less efficient at stress responsiveness.
- Provides the benefits of meditation
A workout can provide the body the same benefits as a calm meditation. Think of it as meditation in motion. For instance, the concentration you put into your workout can help you forget irritations or tensions that your body may have to go through daily. Focusing only on your execution of exercise in the moment can help you drown out some of your daily stressors. Doing your exercising or training mindfully can bring you to a peaceful and calm state that not only enhances your mood but also makes you feel less fatigued. Focusing on a single task spurs bursts of energy and optimism which in turn brings clarity and a sense of calmness.
- Improved sleep
A good workout can aid in improved sleep at night, allowing your body (and brain) to feel rested. When you have enough rest, blood flow to your brain increases, putting it in a better position to cope with stress and feel more energized to go through the day.
Reduce stress with a good workout routine.
If you’re an athlete you can ignore this little public service announcement: Just a reminder, when you begin an exercise routine or physical activity, it’s best to first consult with your physician to make sure there are no reasons why you shouldn’t exercise. Then consult with a personal trainer, therapist, or other professional who can guide you to a realistic and consistent program.